Father Deported Despite Plea to Stay In U.S. With Daughter Who Has Spina Bifida

(Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

A Chicago-area man who made a last-minute plea to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so he could remain in the U.S. to care for a young daughter with severe spina bifida has left the country, his lawyer said Saturday.

Alejandro Medina Franco, 49, a native of Mexico who had been living in suburban Naperville, asked ICE for a stay of removal for humanitarian reasons so he could remain with daughter Joyce Medina, a U.S. citizen who turns 3 in October.

Medina Franco checked in with ICE Saturday morning and boarded an afternoon flight to Mexico, said his immigration lawyer, Margaret O’Donoghue. Medina Franco was made to board a flight after his final pleas with ICE and an immigration judge were exhausted Friday.

If he had not appeared at O’Hare International Airport as agreed, he would have been subject to arrest and a removal while in ICE custody, O’Donoghue said.

“It was devastating to watch Joyce’s father be taken away from her today. She will undoubtedly suffer trauma and irreparable hardship as a result,” O’Donoghue said. “I just hope that by telling Alejandro’s story, we can begin to see immigrants in our communities as the fathers and mothers they are and not merely statistics. We need more compassion in our immigration system for people like Alejandro.”

Medina Franco, who is from the Mexican state of Michoacan, acknowledged in an interview with the Tribune this month that he had sneaked into the country three times and has a criminal record, but he had asked for forgiveness for his child’s sake. He had been convicted of attempting to sell a fraudulent identification card in 2003 and with simple battery involving an argument with his wife, who stands by him.

His problematic history had left him with few options except the plea for leniency, his lawyer said. A previous request to ICE was granted under the administration of President Barack Obama, but its renewal in October was rejected under the tougher policies of President Donald Trump.

ICE officials in Chicago noted Medina Franco’s record and had said that such special stays of removal are not meant to provide a permanent route for someone without the proper paperwork to stay in the U.S.

Joyce has been diagnosed with spina bifida, myelomeningocele, in which a child is born with a spinal cord that is open along part of his or her spinal column, and hydrocephalus, or fluid on her brain.

She has limited mobility and developmental challenges, and she sees several specialists at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. A clinical social worker who sees the family weekly said Medina Franco’s presence was key for Joyce’s security and progress.

Medina Franco and his wife, Maria Teresa Medina, said they did not anticipate taking Joyce out of the country if her father left. Her medical care is expected to continue here with government assistance.

“There are laws for a reason. I know that. I understand,” Medina Franco said in an interview. “If there’s any kind of forgiveness or I could just say I’m sorry. … This will be hard on her.”